SELECTED LETTERS OF RAYMOND CHANDLER

Chandler may not be, as biographer MacShane claims, "one of the greatest letter writers of his time"—and, with minimal annotations, this collection doesn't have the narrative thrust that some letter-assemblages do. But, for sheer opinionated vitality on books, writers, and the business of literature, Chandler's exuberant correspondence undeniably goes right to the head of the class. Not surprisingly, there are pages and pages here on the mystery novel: diatribes against the English detection novel in general ("a psychological fraud"), Sayer's Gaudy Night ("sycophantic drivel") and Christie's And Then There Were None ("bunk") in particular; qualified paeans to Hammett ("if you can show me twenty books written. . . 20 years back that have as much guts and life now, I'll eat them between slices of Edmund Wilson's head"); comments on the young Ross Macdonald's "pretentiousness"; high praise for Erie Stanley Gardner when writing to the author, the faint kind when writing elsewhere—along with disgust for Gardner's dainty lechery. ("The result has all the naughty charm. . . of an elderly pervert surprised while masturbating in a public toilet.") And there's plenty of Chandler on Chandler: self-deprecating, dissatisfied, yet also arrogant—especially in a fascinating letter (not mailed) to Alfred Hitchcock, who wanted more Hitch and less Chandler in the Strangers on a Train screenplay. Less expected, however, are Chandler's classically-schooled, anti-intellectual attacks on the whole range of the arts: James Cain ("Everything he touches smells like a billygoat"); Hemingway (who "got to be pretty damn tiresome. . . with his eternal sleeping bag"); Memoirs of Hecate County ("without passion, like a phallus made of dough"); O'Neill's "second or third-rate talent"; A Streetcar Named Desire ("Zero in art"); Elizabeth Bowen's "entirely unreadable" latest book; etc.—with, as Chandler himself signs a 1954 letter, "malice towards all," but also with genuine vigor and curiosity. And, in letters to (or about) publishers Alfred Knopf and Hamish Hamilton, there's the entire world of the writer's nitty-gritty: agents, paperback sales, the slick magazines vs. the pulps, book clubs, translations, subsidiary rights, money, money, money. Only in the last latters—about wife Cissie's decline and his own mental collapse—does anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic Chandler become a sympathetic figure. But, like him or not, agree with him or not, this was a book-man heart and soul—and these zestful, often quite elegant letters will take their place wherever tough, un-hyped talk of the literary life remains a passion.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1981

ISBN: 0231050801

Page Count: 532

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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